Friday, February 12, 2016

Back to the Hundredth Meridian!

I find it mildly interesting that I've mentioned the Tragically Hip song a couple of times in passing and once as a literal post about finding the meridian line, but I've never done a proper musical review and analysis of the actual song (and music video of course).

As I may have pointed out before, little is explained of this song other than that it references a longitudinal meridian line that runs through the middle of Manitoba. Lyrically, I don't get too much from the song other than the image the lyrics paint for me: A corduroy road, tall weeds, ravens carrying skulls, rusty ferris wheels in the distance, etc. The image is in black and white and looks old-fashioned. I blame the music video for influencing me to see it that way. There may be a couple of deep lyrics with bigger meanings: "Generations always dumber than its parents/came crashing through the window," or "left along to get gigantic, hard huge and haunted." Singularly left that way thanks to isolation, or a reference to humanity itself? Aside from the final verse and that, the rest of the song seems singularly focused on where the great plains begin.

Lyrics like this, and the music, give me the impression that this is probably the most Canadian-sounding band I've ever heard, because of their references to Canadian landscapes, mentality and what Canadiana would probably sound like music- and focus-wise. "I remember, I remember buffalo." Singer Gordon Downie's voice, when you listen to it, sounds like it should really be a level, calm-sounding, even timid voice. I get the impression that he sung calmly but forcefully at the same time; when I heard this as a kid, I thought he looked and sounded like an old man yelling during the chorus.

It's not a super complicated piece of music. I've always liked the backing guitar's quick changes from D major to C major, heard in the introduction and in the lead-up to the final verse after the bridge. Most of the song stays rooted in D major, with nicely overdubbed lead parts that give it a good rock edge. The chorus has an ascending progression pattern that starts in D and goes up to F, G, and B flat majors. Often during the verses you may hear a pattern that goes D-F-C instead of simply D-C, and there are other variations that play smoothly in the background. The song was recorded in London in 1992 for their third album Fully Completely, and it sounds clean and well-mixed.

I've heard this song since I was very young, and almost always around my maternal relatives. As a result I always tend to think of them, particularly as they were when I was young, when I listen to it. It was released in 1993, the year I was two.

Of course I have to touch on the music video, which has a mixture of scenes that look a certain way to me that says "early 90s Canadian video." It was filmed in Melbourne, Australia, near or around the one-hundred and forty-fifth meridian, east. Not exactly on point, but it was during a tour. It's something I've always noticed with bands: They come from one place, travel halfway across the world to record their music elsewhere, and then zig-zag further elsewhere to film the music video. I guess it's just happenstance.

In black and white, the band stand about in a barren environment playing their instruments as Downie strolls along, singing lyrics with a smile on his face when he's supposed to be yelling a line, or looking uncertain or playfully bemused during other words. He wears a hat advertising Gros Morne National Park, located in Newfoundland & Labrador. The shaky zoomed-out shots of the drummer, the guitar lying straight-on as it's played in its scenes, the spinning drum stick, the legs shuffling along near the beginning, most of the panning, close-up, or revolving shots of Downie, all give the video that silly early-90s faux dramatic sense. Downie's preference for bouncing up and down in each panning shot make him look silly, and I kind of wonder why he and the rest of the band are there to stand or bounce or stroll about singing about a meridian line. It all kind of looks unnecessary. And I haven't even mentioned all of the suspended objects that show up throughout each scene. You can spot an old car, a very fake-looking horse, an English telephone booth, a roast chicken sign, a man, and even a ladder. I'm surprised they didn't hoist up a toilet. And it wouldn't be unexpected, after all of the overhead shots of the dead tree, to immediately see that one has also been hoisted up to hang in the background. I haven't counted the camera itself; there are a few quick shots of the band from above, several heads and shoulders standing on the ground unmoving as the camera swings in the wind. I guess it was somewhat a study of looking down at and up at things, as there are many skyward shots mixed with vertical, straight-down scenes.

It really looks a lot like a combination of random ideas, one of which included renting a crane. But I guess coming up with a visual for a song merely about a meridian line and a scene isn't necessarily easy, so the result is a guy bouncing about and strolling along leisurely, excitedly singing about the one hundredth meridian. With random objects hoisted up in the background. He also carries a Polaroid camera, snapping photos of the hanging inanimate man and of the cameraman himself, revealing the latter photo to the camera in the final scene.

Song (Music+Lyrics): B+
Music video: C+

It's a good song that makes a mere fact of geographic knowledge the ongoing subject, and successfully (not forgetting the dramatic verse about burial and exhuming). The music video seems like it was produced because that's what you did with a hit single regardless of the likelihood of a good translation from lyrical idea to visual, but at least it's kind of funny in its silliness, intended or not, and in keeping one guessing at what the band and director decided to suspend in mid-air for each scene.

Red Cloud

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stranger Than Fiction

Never have I written about an ongoing affair or event happening in the world on here, not properly or directly. I think today I'll start, and with that Ghomeshi trial.

More over, I'm focusing on the way the system appears to work.

I always find conflicting perspectives to be way warped in one tangent than in consideration of most things at once. For example, in gender equality, it should exemplify that both genders are exactly the same, equal, no different, no disparity. It should mean that no, a man shouldn't grab some woman's ass, but it should also mean that no, a woman shouldn't therefore be allowed to do the same while men are punished for it. That just warps it in one favouring direction. Both should be allowed or disallowed to go topless, not one over the other.

The underlying focus I've observed here is whether we should immediately believe a victim of sexual assault no matter what when he/she reports it.

Let's quickly look at the victim here: They were raped. That's a potentially traumatizing thing. Someone has forced themselves upon them, invaded their personal space, and used their body as an object, as something that is uniquely theirs and only belongs to them. Your body is part of who you are, a huge part of your self-image. Its yours to love and protect and yours to give to someone you feel absolutely comfortable with, if you want, on your terms. When someone forcibly violates that and leaves you powerless, it's like you lost a part of yourself because you couldn't protect it. It really doesn't help when there are parts of the world where if a woman is raped, the justice system requires they had five witnesses and evidence that is nearly impossible to produce, and in the end the system punishes the victim.

If this were a better world, the idea that believing a victim no matter what is a wholly possible and unquestionable thing would work. No one ever usually comes forward to report their trauma to authorities of any kind because as soon as they do they're judged and prodded and maybe treated with a horrible, discouraging attitude. Law enforcement works by finding evidence and facts and credibility, and sorting through the fiction to produce an exact breakdown of what definitely happened, to conclude the investigation and mete out the consequences to the guilty party(s). That's not easy when the evidence is your body and what sexually happened to it. Contrast that with a store owner describing someone's face and what they stole to a police officer. So the attitudes of officers and officials needs to be encouraging and tactful, but no less smart.

In my opinion, a victim of rape or assault should be able to swiftly report to authorities as soon as they're stable enough to open up to someone, particularly an officer trained on counselling. And they should be believed no matter what. What makes this questionable, and this is such a sad part of our species, is the ability and willingness of some people to exploit for attention. People who feast on rumours and want a moment in the spotlight, people who want attention whether their issue is real or imagined. Those people do a lot more damage than they might expect, because they discredit any genuine, authentic cases of actual injustice. In terms of this trial, which has been described as 'unusual' and 'strange,' it looks half like the broadcaster committed acts that were considered non-consensual and therefore illegal, and half like a small group of women got together to ruin the man's reputation, sharing messages and battle cries of "decimating" him.

In saying that, I am not deciding either. I wouldn't be surprised if he did what he did. But if those women responded by apparently teetering back and forth and going back for more or doing other sexual things with him, how can that not send mixed messages? They went to the media first, not the police. They gave their tales, and then their tales became inconsistent. They seem to be giving the real reason why it's perhaps not a good idea to immediately believe a victim of assault or rape - if you have an issue and someone has a similar issue, responding by calling the world's attention on the news and having meet-ups and Facebook messages with each other makes it seem like you're a covert unit looking for attention or sympathy regardless of the existence of any issue, by playing with an idea that's not very stable in public opinion - in which case you're destabilizing it.

Rape victims and harassment victims need all the support they can get in their trauma. I doubt you would forget the specific details of what happened if it really happened. They should be believed, and the authorities should be supportive yet smart and proficient in their investigation. Victims should be able to approach authorities without apprehension and fear of being humiliated and judged, because the nature of the crime is so sensitive. It happens in an isolated place, in private, not in public, so no, there are usually no witnesses, which make it hard to investigate and hard not to be insensitive, but having tact and time and support will help. Attention-seekers just undo everything.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This May Make People Think...Or Make Them Angry

Since last November, I've been writing some short essays on my opinions of cultural and social norms and reactions. I've never put them anywhere, just wrote them for myself and a friend of mine whom I talk about these things with often. I don't put them up anywhere largely because I'm not ready to be fully judged on what I think on things, as well as the surface-based look at things - I rarely did any research, instead writing open-ended, allowing readers to see that my mind is open to input.

There is one subject that keeps popping up, however, that I did write about, but still sits in my head, simmering. It makes me kind of frustrated. The subject in question was veganism.

On the whole of it, I personally don't care a bit about what people eat. It doesn't hurt anyone, or at least it shouldn't. Just like someone's religion should be harmless when that person practices it on their own, and their interpretation is tolerant and observes a non-violent, non-radical system. What annoys me are the people, like those religious fanatics, who overwhelmingly care about what other people eat and if they don't share the same ethical ideas, they're free to consider themselves saintly and superior while the non-conformists are viewed as disgusting animals. No one likes something forced down their throat, whether its religion or someone else's ethics and potential disgust.

But that's just one narrow aspect of it.

I've thought a lot about where vegans and vegetarians come from, why they feel it's wrong to eat meat or any food that could be considered once a living thing. No doubt they've done their research and developed their ideas and ethics from how they've judged the knowledge they've acquired. In places, I absolutely agree with their reasoning.

I think it's definitely a noble cause to treat animals better. While I doubt the majority of the livestock industry - which is regulated by agencies controlled by the government - consists of cruel sadists who, like the worst serial killers, torture and beat and literally take animals apart alive - these people certainly exist, and animals are surely beaten and unnecessarily tortured for no reason whatsoever. Those people could be called inhuman, and they definitely should pay the consequences. The same goes for hunting for sport - killing an animal merely so you can have your picture taken with the corpse, its head fixed to your wall. It's pointless and only serves to heighten one's false feeling of superiority, the grand knowledge that you're at the top of the food chain. I don't think killing an animal makes you superior. I think it makes you stupid for doing something unnecessary and potentially screwing up the natural order. Do it in absolute self-defence; do it if you need the animal - not just the meat - to help you survive. And in that case, do it in real moderation.

In terms of the 'natural order,' I'm just referring to a natural balance. Species come and go throughout the millennia, whether they're eaten extinct as they weren't evolved enough to withstand or hide from predators, or the environment was harsh, or other means exterminated them. Species go extinct - it's a natural part of life on earth - but it shouldn't be because of an involvement that was superficial or too big or advanced, off-balanced. I'm unsure if any species other than humanity has eaten another species of animal to extinction. And if there are species of animal throughout earthly history that have over-hunted another species, I bet it took a lot longer than we ever did in over-fishing our oceans and hunting game for sport to near-extinction.

The only valid point I can see with veganism and vegetarianism is to protest against the unethical treatment of animals. Which is noble, but in my opinion kind of backwards and way more difficult than simply dealing with those who treat animals inhumanely. Responding to sadists by boycotting their products won't change their methods because the North American diet is so inclusive of meat - extremely so in the U.S. - that they won't ever suffer significant business loss, and if they did, would that really change their attitude? Maybe they're not making as much money, or even any, but they're still probably going to take it out on their poor livestock. I think we probably need more people like Temple Grandin.

Putting animal ethics aside, I don't understand that attitude. If animals were universally treated right - something that likely only exists in a perfect world - people would still ethically believe it's wrong or controversial to eat living things, and that's where my understanding fades. Cows produce milk, and not a fixed amount. They need to be milked. But it's wrong to you to drink that milk. Why? Where will it go, then, into the ground? It can't stay in the udder forever. Every living things dies at some point or another. A lot of animals are carnivores. They hunt, or eat other dead animals. Why don't we scold them too, then? And if you don't eat living things, you'd better stay away from plants then. Of course, like all the carnivore animals, there are herbivores grazing on pastures all over the world. The nerve of them! If you're not going to eat a chicken or cow, it's going to die sooner or later anyway, to be left to other animals, or otherwise to the earth, eventually becoming a future fossil fuel. I doubt a ranch hand would prefer a pen consisting of the odd corpse under the cloud of flies and wolves, or the need to move it elsewhere to be scavenged or left to rot. For ethics that go to that extreme, there's a different sense of false superiority: The kind that feels they're better than the meat-eaters out there because they're not prone to such animalistic disgraces, eating animals like animals do. With an attitude like that, you might as well be denying that like all the other sentient, living species on earth, you are an animal just like the rest of them. Perhaps we are evolved enough to be able to make a choice in what we eat unlike other animals who hunt and eat on instinct - but that doesn't give us the eminence to decide we're apart and separate. Like or not, we are part of the animal kingdom, and in all stages of our evolutionary development, meat has been an integral part of our diet. We're advanced, yes - but we should use our big brain to be humane and careful and respectful, to punish those who are cruel to animals but not so self-righteous we're offended at everything we do or eat. We need to respect the natural balance of things, use moderation, and not be involved in any pointless, superficial destruction or upset.

Red Cloud

Monday, February 8, 2016


Tonight, I tried an old song on for size. This song is ancient for me. It was on an album released in 2009.

I say that with real intentional irony considering around 98% of the songs I review on here are decades old, yet new to me as I come to listen to them. In terms of this song, MKII, it was written and composed by Madness. I haven't written any reviews on Madness stuff in over a couple of years - probably longer.

My focus on the one British ska band has become increasingly diluted since 2012. I almost never really listen to them much anymore. I got my own car and began listening to boom 99.7 all the time, and the rest is history. I welcome this change, as when I did a search to see if I wrote any previous review of this song, I didn't find anything but constant mentions of Madness over and over. It sounds over-the-top altogether like that. Obsessive.

I want to review MKII now because I heard it on a whim and, as I normally do these days, I got intrigued by the musical processes at work, which I never dived into nearly as much five-six years ago. And it is a pretty good song.
I'll quickly go about the lyrics and tone first: It sounds warm and sad at the same time. There's a loneliness to it and you get the impression the lyrics reflect the past rather than modern day. Synesthetically, the song is largely golden yellow in the piano-driven intro/outro and the guitar-driven middle. The melody works very nicely and the lyrics tell a simple, carefree story.

Now the music. It's one of the few Madness compositions to follow that common, popular 1-5-7-4 progression in the piano melody (in A minor), though what makes this variation of it refreshing and Madness-like is Mike Barson's preference for minor chords all throughout except in the third G chord. A minor, E minor, G major, and D minor. i-v-VII-iv. All of Barson's chords are played broken and likely inverted, and on his second round of the chords, he adds a D and a B during his broken A minor, and a C and A on his broken G major. His left hand continues ahead with the root notes while these extra notes are added, making a nice harmony. This varies when Suggs begins his lines, but not too much. The drums are very minimal, only coming in big bursts during the heavy guitar body of the song; they're used sparingly to save them for that spotlight.

The rock aspect of the song differs from the easygoing introduction and verse. The key switches to B flat major, with a procession of I-V-II (B flat, F, and C major). This is just a semitone up from the A minor of the rest of the song. I've read that that kind of progression change is common in Madness songs. It should have been easy to play on sax considering it is a B-flat instrument. This goes on, with the bass complimenting Sugg's voice (E-F-E-D-C-B flat), for about four rounds, before returning back to the A minor key in a symphony of drums, guitar, organ, piano, low bass, and sax. Now it's shortened to a i-v-VII progression, with the piano keeping to the first and third chords only. What I particularly noticed at the end of this climax is how low, cold, and distant that ending D minor sounds. Mark Bedford must have tuned his bass down so that his E string was rather a low D string. The chord/note is obviously supposed to be the angry, betrayed fadeout. It has definitely been viewed as a very sad chord from what I've read. I've seen it as rather cold and distant instead of sad. Not there, out of it, couldn't care less. All instruments except the sax end on this note.

The final resolution of the song is a repetition of the line "he starts the Jaguar and drives away" which has a finality to it, and a repetition of the piano line with a nicely added guitar accompaniment. As the piano plays one last time, ambient noise is filtered in, as if you're hearing the quiet scenery left in the wake of the departing car.

As for the band itself, Madness released another album in 2012, three years after The Liberty of Norton Folgate on which 'MKII' was recorded, and since then they've been touring. Mark Bedford, the bassist, took a leave of absence during that time, only returning to play with the band at the 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics (for the first time ever I got to see the band live on my own TV that day). Their last album, Oui Oui Si Si Ja Ja Da Da ('Yes' in numerous European languages) took an apparent back-to-basics approach, and after listening to it, I decided I only really liked one song ('Small World'). Post-release, backing singer Chas Smash (Carl Smyth) left to pursue a solo career, releasing his debut last year or the year before, and lead singer Suggs wrote an autobiography and began hosting a music-integrated live show centred on his life. I look on their website now and then, checking on the question-answer page hosted by guitarist Chris Foreman sometimes, and I may write to ask his opinion of any new demos I upload to SoundCloud (he's always impressed at my progress on the guitar or piano, etc.) That's about it.

I'd recommend a listen to 'MKII' as a good old-fashioned-sounding song of apparent sadness, but I wouldn't go crazy listening to the band for a decade like I did...unless you're willing to not talk singularly about them all the I did...

Red Cloud

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Yesterday, I flew to a different airport for the first time.

The airport in question was the Gatineau executive airport. The runway is a bit wider and definitely longer than Rockcliffe's. They have landing approach sequence lights, which I noted because I wish it had been a bit later and they'd therefore been flashing.

It marks somewhat of a milestone for me because it's the first time I've landed at an airport other than the one of origin and after months of flying over Quebec, I finally landed on it, multiple times. The same day, after a long period of studying, I also took a critical exam I needed to pass in order to fully move ahead with the whole flight training. I passed in one try, with a 98%. Studying really helps. I can continue forward and get my student pilot permit.

Next week is even better. I will be flying over to and landing at Ottawa International Airport (YOW) and doing the same touch-and-go circuit flying I did at Gatineau yesterday. The whole purpose is to finesse and practice approach and landing (landing being a place where most pilots make serious or fatal mistakes). Once this is down, I can fly solo. That'll really be something.

I put a lot of excitement into going to YOW because it's a big international airport with a control tower and runways that take on huge jumbo jets and 747s. Imagine landing on a runway used by airlines and international flights for commuter travel. Rockcliffe isn't more than a civilian airport for people who own aircraft to use - nothing much bigger than single-engined privately-owned aircraft use its runway. Gatineau can accommodate small passenger jets. Ottawa - that's the big league. Runway 14/32 is over several kilometres long. I do that on Monday, weather-permitting. I'll definitely film it like I did for Gatineau, as well as try to get a picture or two afterwards.

Also long overdue, this is the steep turns video from November last year.

The sped-up portions of video show clearly how imperfect my flying is as the plane rises and falls over and over across the terrain.

Red Cloud

Thursday, January 28, 2016

6 Years

It's been a mixed ride for my time on Facebook. I signed up for the first time on January 26, 2010. Good and bad things have resulted from it.

Originally, I went on it because, as I told myself and wrote on here, it was an "experiment." It was really motivated by the fact a girl I had a crush on in the past was on it, and was therefore a way of reconnecting. Inadvertently, it was this very blog that made me realize this, because its stats told me someone Googled her name, and when I clicked on the search term, her Facebook profile popped up in the results (as well as the post here featuring her name). I did reconnect; for a brief time, it led to one of the "positive things" I wrote above.

There are some people who believe that the social media giant is an entire waste of time, and reason for almost negative-only things. There are others who think the world of it. Most things are best in moderation. I would expect a lot of people don't really properly understand how to use it to their best interests; I've spent the last six years figuring it out.

Facebook can be a real waste of time: watching a newsfeed update all day, wondering who's doing what. Posting stuff you don't necessarily need to. I've seen both ends of the spectrum. I had someone who posted his every movement, and many others who posted almost nothing at all (my best friend since 1st grade posts maybe twice a year). There are people who post nothing and actively stay off Facebook, and many others who post nothing but watch all the time.

In this time, I have never amassed more than 99 friends. It's not an achievement and not a missed goal, either. I've come to decide that I'm not going to randomly add people I may have only met once or twice unless they add me and they make an effort to develop some kind of occasionally real friendship. Those whom I never see but knew from a long time ago are an exception, because I've had my experiences with them and I'm therefore interested in merely getting the Facebook version of how their life is going. I can ask how they're doing on occasion and they'll be happy to respond.

For a while, I had the wrong idea that Facebook "gave" one friends and opportunities. Facebook is a connection platform, and one that makes people privy to pointless knowledge most of the time. I developed this idea because within the first hour people I only knew merely by sight in high school were sending me friend requests; I was excited and shocked at this sudden interest in me from people I almost never spoke a word to in the past (yet I knew who they were) so as far as I was concerned, Facebook was "giving" me friends. This trend petered out over one week, and I was hooked on staring at it, waiting for more people, wondering what they'd say or do, wondering if they'd include me some way or another.

In terms of the positives, they did actually include me - I was invited to more than several night-out occasions and experienced nightlife for the first time. I connected with that girl, and even her just-as-attractive best friend, and that culminated in an afternoon at a McDonalds one summer day. Then again, Facebook doesn't guarantee anything when it's really a relationship between people who can choose how to act. Thanks to my unfortunate interest in both girls, I stared at it all the time in hopes that I might see something from either of them (I did not; they were the kind that didn't post and didn't go on). I invested too much expectation in it and expected people would come to me, and in some ways they did with their invitations to Zaphod Beeblebrox or with one of those girls actually chatting with me online. I over-posted for awhile because it became part of my rhythm and routine, so half the time it was mindlessly automatic. Also, I wanted to come off as interesting as possible to those I liked.

I droned over it to the point I tried deactivating for a period during the summer a couple of times, to get away from it and back to reality. It was also because I unintentionally offended one of those two girls and in my negative presumptions deleted her (which made everything worse). I would say that my usage of that social media site has become somewhat healthier since I deleted both because I wasn't looking at it in hopes they'd continue a proper friendship with me.

At this point for me, in the present, it's largely something to leave on in the background, checking periodically, and a place to put my equirectangular panoramas and stereographics as well as some personal stuff related to my flight training or other photos. I do post somewhat often, maybe too much here and there (my father can't stand me posting anything at all other than anything artsy) but I don't expect anything from it anymore. That's perhaps the healthiest way to look at social media: Don't expect anything from it other than a connection to people you know/knew. Maybe a 'like' now and then.

Red Cloud

Monday, January 25, 2016

Shaque d'Amour

I've always tended to ignore this song or overlook it when I think of fun childhood-related songs. It's really a major staple. The "love getaway," as in the Love Shack.

The song can be considered a defining single by the B-52's just as 'Losing my Religion' was for R.E.M. That and 'Roam' are their signature songs, and both were released on the same album (Cosmic Thing). I find it kind of interesting that both bands come from Athens, Georgia, both stray from the norm in their musical style/direction, and both had their biggest hits around the same time - 'Love Shack' in 1989 and 'Losing my Religion' in 1991. Both developed their quirky style around a more cult-based following throughout the 1980s before hitting mainstream with those hits, and afterwards both kind of left the pop culture mainstay just as quickly - R.E.M. had smaller follow-up singles with 'Man on the Moon' and 'Everybody Hurts' in the early '90s, and the B-52's appeared in the live-action Flintstones film singing the show's theme song, but that was it, even though both bands continued right up to this decade in album releases and touring. Their similar trajectories are almost uncanny.

I got acquainted with 'Love Shack' from an early age thanks to my mother's VHS tape of music videos recorded off of MuchMusic between the late 80s and mid-90s. I probably got more out of the video than of the song, and I know I likely found Fred Schneider's campy persona entertaining. I remember getting the impression that he jauntily and easily led the two girls behind him onwards in the song, in total control, and I also remember wondering who he was thanks to that.

When I looked over it again on the tape as I got older, I decided that some of the visual elements of the video - the huge pale green hood of the Chrysler, the brass players at the window sill, Schneider's persona and the short shots of the sunflower, trees, and falling wig (and goat) were iconic things in their place in pop culture. They all looked like they belonged in that way in some sort of consciousness, as if that's what you remember when you think of that video or videos from that time. I always got pleasure and excitement at that idea when I watched, so I appreciated those visual aspects. I'm sure I've tried to describe this sort of thing in other reviews I've written here in the past, except I did a much poorer job articulating what I meant.

If I were to talk critically of the video for a moment, it's a great visual art piece. The house, which in reality was a pottery studio, was done up as colourfully as possible - a "tin" roof that resembles giant kitchen tiles, a colourful looks like the entire room was coloured in crayons. I like how the drummer was placed centrally in an opening into the room with people dancing outside, and the rural-looking scenery outside. The carefree nature of camera movement during the scenes of them in the Chrysler - swiping over the hood, looking up at the sky - was also nice. I wonder if the two men working outside the window in the bathtub scene were the real owners of the property. RuPaul cameos in the video, dancing in drag, showing up intermittently throughout. On the downside, the lip-syncing looks awkward and feeble in certain scenes. Both women look rather more distracted while singing a couple of times. Fred Schneider nails all his lines perfectly. There's also three instances where the band change their wardrobe between scenes, although for some reason I don't find any issue with that; it seems quite normal to me that the group, especially the girls, would immediately re-change their clothes upon entrance to the place, as part of their general quirky ways.

Now the music. I've really come to enjoy several aspects of the song in recent times - the female vocals, the bass line, and most of all, the guitar.

It's a simple composition in C minor. The bass will start on C and then make its way up to G from E, with variation, throughout the song, creating a sort of 1-5 progression that includes a 7 when you consider the guitar's use of A sharp. Keith Strickland put the music together on the guitar, and its sound is what I like the most. It has a bright rock sound that's also light and easy-going, not hard. I think I've heard the term 'surf guitar' to describe their sound, and that sounds about right. It's largely yellow to me, yellow and white in forms that move to the notes played in their style. It translates into a redhead from my past, where the context is a party and I envision her entertainment and enjoyment. I don't really know why she and that context comes to mind through the guitar; that's just how it looks and feels to me. As a result I really like the guitar notes played during the line "people lining up outside just to get down." Keith Strickland manages to get very creative and diverse in his largely note-playing throughout this song. Mostly he revolves around C, G and A sharp, but he deviates with enough diversity to make it constantly interesting.

The song was written and recorded as a party. There's a backing track of the band talking and laughing and acting as if they were partying together, and the drums sound live. Pioneering drummer Charley Drayton played them and appears to show up in the video as well. The bass line has a groovy rhythm to it and has a place in the song where it shines as all the other instruments fade out for the 'bang on the door' bridge.

Finally, there's the female vocal section, which has its highlights. I particularly like the harmonizing "love getaway" refrain at the start of the song; both women put great emphasis on 'love' in the lyric, making them sound excited and happy. The voices give me a colour similar to the hood of the car in the video, with more aqua blue, and the form is like a smooth but bumpy surface, the bumps being the point of vocal inflection and emphasis. The whole thing translates into a point of adventure, to go somewhere. When I was younger, the latter half of the phrase " a little ol' place where we can get together" sounded like two teenage girls trying to entice a crush to come with them. It gives me the same context now - two thirteen-year-old girls enticing an eleven-year-old boy to go under the tree with them. The persuasion in their voices sounds young and sweet. At the end of the song, Kate Pierson gives off a nice little shriek that makes for an appropriate conclusion.

The song was recorded in New York (the state) and put together in two takes after a power failure interrupted the first half of the jam session; the session itself came from a demo idea the band had but weren't intending on trying out. Their producer, Don Was, encouraged them to showcase it. By happy coincidence, the rhythm section (drums and bass) of both sessions happened to match up perfectly, so they glued both together and laid the rest down. Later, Cindy Wilson decided to improvise "tin roof rusted" while Strickland was playing over the track, so they included it as a funny little break in the song.

From what I've read and seen, the lyrics and party atmosphere of the song are a mixture of personal memories of the band's early days when Andy Wilson was still alive and playing with them, and of memories of a real cabin in rural Georgia. Kate Pierson lived there in the 1970s and it survived until sometime in the past decade, when it burned down. The band had a close working relationship; all of them shared a house for years and no doubt they all considered each other family, and Andy's passing shattered them. 'Love Shack' is a quirky, fun, lighthearted celebration of the band's past. I think it's totally appropriate in style and lyrics, which are warm and fuzzy in some ways. Schneider and the two girls did a great job writing the lyrics to Strickland's music - and all in all, the band made a great comeback with Cosmic Thing when it came out. I want to give most credit to Keith Strickland for apparently enticing the rest of the band back (from what I've read, he had composed some new stuff during their time apart and had asked them back) but credit is due to everyone who came back and took the risk of trying to put themselves out there again after several years off the grid. The result was colossal - 'Love Shack' is definitely an iconic song with its pastel-coloured music video and fun lyrics, and I'll always enjoy it.

Music: A-
Lyrics: B+
Video: A

Red Cloud

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tall Blinking Things

Ever since I was very young, I've had a quirky attraction to tall blinking lights. There's no real reason. I just like lit masts, especially if they strobe or blink. I believe it came from the one on top of the currently-levelled CJOH studios that until 2010 sat at Merivale and Clyde. My young summers often included bike rides to the Dairy Queen at that intersection, and I was fascinated by such a tall tower - twice as much by the fact I could see it almost from anywhere thanks to its height and the red aircraft warning lights that blinked halfway up and at the top of the mast. If I got up close to the glass, I could even spot it through the trees from my bedroom window, particularly if it was windy and the trees swayed, blinking away.

Over the past year, my attention to and interest in these towers has slowly been building. There are five west of Barrhaven, and four others along rural Prince of Whales near the 416. I've always noticed the latter four thanks to drives to my grandparents, and I'd always assumed they were directional arrays for aircraft landing at the airport. Recently, I've been driving out to some of these sites - particularly cell sites - to capture an equirectangular panorama as close as possible; stereographics featuring these towers are more interesting to look at because the mast 'sticks out' from the 'planet' or 'ball' of ground in the centre.

As a result of my panoramas and notice of these eyesores that everyone else no doubt considers them to be, I've done a bit of research. For example, the one just south of Greely that utilizes a medium-density strobe at the top and middle actually transmits FM radio waves, and the frequency is 99.7. In other words, that's the broadcasting point of Boom 99.7. It's the station I've listened to since I got a car and the source of the huge diversification of my musical interests. The four and five arrays of masts south of Barrhaven have nothing to do with the airport; both are sets of AM radio masts, and because of their nature the entire tower acts as the antenna, not just the spire on top. The round things at the top are capacitor heads, which broaden the range. The four along Prince of Whales give you 680 CFRA news-talk radio; the ones just west of Barrhaven give you 1310 News. Their nighttime range is smaller than their daytime range and, interestingly, they give a directional field of broadcast.

Then there are all the cell sites, which have multiplied like crazy in the past eight or nine years. Both pictured above are cell sites. The arms pointing out at the top in different directions are literally signal arms giving a portion of the horizon a line-of-sight reception. Cell phone texts and calls travel via these towers and their range is kept to a minimum to ensure high reception (why there are so many of them, and often on top of buildings as well).

To find out all of this, I utilized a couple of websites including, to my own surprise, Wikipedia, which actually has articles on each frequency and station using it. There's a neat site that uses a map to show every cell tower in the country (and who uses it on what frequency) and a radio station transmitter site that gives you the location of the towers.
Cell site map:
Radio transmitter map:

One more thing I want to point out is the point of notice of this stuff. The 'Boom 99.7' tower in Greely wasn't something I ever noticed before until the Strandherd-Armstrong Bridge was built and I first took the southern, back way to a friend's place. Only when I turned north on Albion did I notice it in my rearview mirror, very obviously. It looked like something was shooting into the earth from an unseen spaceship in the distance. Once I noticed that, I then immediately noticed it from every other familiar place I never used to see it from - whether it was going into Barrhaven or going to Kars or even in the Gatineau Hills. I never used to see it from anywhere until I noticed it in one certain place - then it became visible from everywhere. Perhaps it's kind of pointless to note this here, but I think it's kind of astounding considering it's always been there and obvious, yet only in a certain circumstance will it become visible to me.

There are still a few other masts that have unknown properties that I have yet to figure out - such as the double tower-thing visible on the western horizon from Greenbank or Merivale or Woodroffe. Maybe it's for TV.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


I was hoping, as an odd year, that 2015 would have more good times and memories. Instead, I think this year will be one of the more uneventful odd-numbered years in my life so far.

Of course, it's not over yet, so I can't absolutely write it off as entirely boring. And there were a few notable things - most notable of all being my flight training.

This afternoon, I had a delayed flight lesson due to, surprisingly, a job interview over the phone. The result was that the lesson encroached upon dusk, and I got to see a glimpse of what night flying will be like when I do it in the future. I've done all the other lessons now - spirals, steep turns, slipping, etc. - and now it's just doing circuits. Flying within the airport's traffic circuit en route from departure to landing. The point being to practice entry and exit and take offs and, most importantly, landings.

I've only filmed the spirals and steep turns. I didn't see any point to filming slips (basically flying at a slight or obvious angle into the wind to keep the plane on a straight path) or filming takeoffs and landings, though I wish I did today.

The spirals video. I haven't yet edited and put up the steep turns video.

I had, probably naively, high expectations for this year largely because I would be finishing school permanently for now and entering the professional job market. I put a lot of hope on the idea that I would finish my classes and be hired into a job virtually immediately, before I even graduated. Actually, I spent another summer at Wal-Mart.

I did gain a friend this year, via interest in my panoramas, and there were some good times. They were just few, and I even had an auto accident. But we'll see what the last couple of weeks of the month have to offer. I'm working Christmas Eve. The first time since I nearly had to in 2011. But the succeeding two days I have off.

I've been writing some essays that are similar to what I'd put on here, but I haven't bothered because they focus on real concrete things that I have an opinion and stance on, and I feel like keeping them to myself for the moment.

I wonder what 2016 will be like. Perhaps more exciting than 2015? Probably. I'll likely end up going to Jordan then, and maybe getting hired into a job. Maybe actually go camping. We'll see.
It's a low-quality cell phone image but it's the best I had during the lesson.

Red Cloud

Friday, November 6, 2015

Spinning For the First Time

On Wednesday, I had my first flight lesson in over several weeks. It was kind of long-anticipated, because I'd done my stall lesson at the start of October, and the next one that ended up being cancelled until this week was the 'spin' lesson. This time, I made sure to take my new Sony HD camera to record all of it. The video below is the result (the camera, like a GoPro, is suction-cupped to the windshield). The spin is shown in the last minute of it.

A couple of notes: The video isn't the entire thing. Unfortunately, due to the vibrations of the fuselage, it kept falling off. I replaced it twice during the record time (the falling down parts are edited out) and after the spin starts, it fell off again and ended up under the seat, so I just gave up in order to focus on the lesson altogether. That's why the raw video was only twenty minutes long, edited down to 7 minutes, and only one spin is shown.

I wasn't too worried about the lesson or what to expect, considering I now knew how a stall felt (undramatic, simple). We flew northwest, until we were essentially parallel to the Ottawa River as it heads that way, and over northern Aylmer. As the video describes, the plane was put into a stall by increasing the angle of attack on the wings - pitching upwards - while keeping the engine RPM at 1700 (a speed at which the wings have insufficient thrust to provide lift at the greater angle). Angle of attack simply just refers to the angle the leading edge of the wing is 'attacking' (moving through) the air horizontally. The stall warning comes on at a certain pitch and speed, and as that happens, my instructor, who in the video is first demonstrating the whole thing to me, greatly pitches higher to create the stall.

If you have the volume up high enough, you might hear him tell me about how he will use the left rudder. As soon as he stalled the plane, he applied massive left rudder, turning the plane greatly to the left. That caused one wing to be entirely stalled and have drag, while the other suddenly had lift, causing the plane to roll sideways and then pitch virtually straight down. Massive yaw to the left in a stall. The result is a spin.

Having not expected much drama, i.e., G-force or pressure, I was taken by surprise. As the video shows, we spun downwards in a slight corkscrew motion. The surprise for me was the G-force in yawing around, sideways, and then down. The entry into the spin, going into the incipient stage, had me yelling "Oh shoot!" in surprise. My instructor calmly says "Power idle" as he describes his movements to recover.

At that moment, the camera fell. As it filmed the floor, we stopped spinning and just continued, stalled, downwards. You can hear the engine RPM go up as it fades to black. We're recovering from the stall and flying again. At that moment, my arms felt ridiculously heavy as G-force weighed me in my seat. The experience was a lot more dramatic than I expected.

I underestimated how it would feel because of everything I read: Speed is constant, not erratic, and kind of lazy; forces are 'above normal' but consistent. Cessna 172s are extremely balanced aircraft, easy to recover (they're also, pointedly, spin-certified). We'd be recovering from the edge of the first stage in spin development, not doing the whole thing (there are three stages - Incipient stage, Fully Developed, and recovery, with 'fully developed' lasting as long as six spins). We spun about three times.

I kind of know how it felt to be a GoPro on my old AR.Drone when it fell out of the sky, except that it fell a bit more erratically.

That video shows up to the beginning of the fully developed stage before it fell. After he demonstrated, we did two more of these spins - one with the two of us doing it together (I forgot half of what he'd explained the first time due to surprise) and the last with me recovering largely on my own. It's relatively simple - keep the yoke (control column) back, reduce power to idle, apply opposite (so right) rudder until the spin stops, then back to neutral, put the yoke slightly forward, add power, then pull back to return to climbing. Keeping the yoke back helps put the plane in a more horizontal position after it stop spinning, and then putting it forward ensures the angle of attack isn't too great on the wings, avoiding a second stall. The power gives the thrust and therefore speed, so you can start climbing back up.

I didn't feel too good afterwards, but that was largely because my instructor almost immediately went on to demonstrate a spiral for the next lesson, next week. It sounds similar to a spin, but it isn't except in the sense that you're flying in an ever-smaller circle while also descending. There's no rolling, and almost no G-force, yet your speed is increasing as the bank angle gets steeper and steeper until the plane either disintegrates under the strain or you hit the ground.

I'm glad I got this video, and I intend on filming the rest of my flight lessons like this (though I'll find a different method of camera application to the plane than suction-cup). It's quite amazing to see the Quebec countryside spinning below, straight ahead like that. We were at least 3,500 feet up in order to recover from this, and thankfully, I won't have to do this again in my lessons (or the flight test). The only thing is that I may feel that I should review and do more in the future, to remember the proper steps in recovering (and, as other pilots say, to entirely get used to the sensation to the point it's no more uncomfortable than any other flight maneuver). Something my instructor mentioned that was interesting and made sense was that people who crash from spins aren't those who inadvertently enter one and immediately try to recover, but rather those who intentionally cause a spin to show their passengers; usually the weight distribution is off, and recovery has a different nature, takes longer, and/or isn't possible.

Of anyone around me that I know, most of them don't even like flying or heights to begin with, so I highly, highly doubt I'll ever get the inclination to intentionally induce a spin just to show off. In fact, probably never. No, never. That can be left to the aerobatic pilots.

I think I will want to practice a spin again in the future, just to ensure I can recover from it, but otherwise, I think this picture will do for me more than not.
Managed to figure out that the road from top to bottom of the image is Highway 148, with the one coming in from the left is Chemin Alary.

That was one "spin class" to remember.

Red Cloud

Monday, October 26, 2015

No More Chipmunk

On Thanksgiving Monday, I reached another milestone in my life that just about everyone who has a car should or has, and got into a car accident.

I had dropped my mother off somewhere for dinner and had to get to work by 3pm. I was working the holiday in order to get the extra money, something I crave thanks to the flying lessons. Five days a week is enough, but it's nice to get an opportunity to gain something rather than barely making more than breaking even. It was almost ten to three. My mind wandered to the time I had left, which meant I realized too late the car ahead had stopped altogether. My brakes couldn't bring me from over 80km/h to zero in the distance I'd already closed, so I got to have that experience.

It was just me and the dog in the car. I jittered in my seat upon impact; the dog rolled over in the back. The airbag went off, but there wasn't enough force for me to actually face-plant into it. In the end, I was four hours late for work (nobody expected me to come in upon hearing about the crash, but I wasn't losing whatever money I had left to earn).

This happened, as it turns out, twelve days after the final payment was made on the car. It was entirely ours for twelve days.

It happened on Prince of Whales, outside the city. Greenbank Road was closed off between Barnsdale and Kilbirnie, a residential street in Stonebridge. I had to continue north on Prince of Whales to alternatively use Jockvale Road to get home. Had the road not been closed, it probably wouldn't have happened. But, because there's a gas station at the corner of Barnsdale and Prince of Whales, with an entrance/exit onto both, and because the road I was on does not widen to accommodate a left-turn lane, cars have to stop in the north bound lane to turn while waiting for southbound traffic to pass. That's how the situation evolved. Of course, I'm not blaming the absence of a turn lane or a road detour or a gas station for why I rear-ended someone. I just became focused elsewhere at the wrong place and time.

Anyway, it's unfortunately the end of the car. The airbag deployed. Whether or not I actually needed it is beside the point - replacing it costs the same as the car itself. Thankfully, the car in front of me suffered very minor visible damage while my car lost its face. As a result, insurance wrote it off. I can give my car a time-line:

'09 Toyota Yaris, black: Oct. 3rd, 2012 - Oct. 12th, 2015.

Of course, the first date refers to when I came into ownership of it. Obviously its service start date would be sometime in 2009. It lived for six years, firstly for an owner somewhere in Quebec, and then the majority of its life up to that day was spent with me behind the wheel.

I want to focus largely on the life the car had prior to my ruining it. I have a lot of memories of ground I covered with it. It was our intention that we got a car once I passed my G2 entrance exam. I finally dealt with that in early September 2012, then we spent a week looking online until we found a car at the Toyota dealership on Merivale. Upon arrival, the car wasn't actually there, but this one was, so my grandpa test-drove it. Afterwards, we went ahead and bought it. Almost a week later, we picked it up. October 3rd. It was a great deal - three years old, only 42,000 kilometres on it, only $9,995, automatic.

The first place I drove with it was my grandparent's. The intention was for me to get comfortable driving it for the first time. Ironically, coming back, we took the exact same route I ended up taking the day of the accident. I didn't bother using the car to go to work, considering the tiny distance, and I still largely took the bus to Algonquin for my Photography program. In fact, it was a slow transition between taking the bus and driving and parking on residential streets. Eventually, I stopped altogether and just drove. As winter came, the same went for going to work. Driving to school proved more useful because there were shooting assignments that required I be on location, so I could just pack equipment into the car and use the Queensway to get downtown. I fulfilled the requirements for driving on a highway during the G2 period almost daily.

A few times during the winter, I just toured around during the night, driving randomly like I used to do on the bike in the summer if I hadn't been to certain part of neighbourhood before. Sometimes I brought my camera and did some nighttime long-exposure stuff - I could go distances now, and not have to worry about carrying a frozen metal tripod in my hands considering the winter temperatures. That led to the creation of a Facebook album of such images. I would do that a few more times during the spring.

2013 was a good year for driving. I packed all of my mics and instruments up and went to my friend's place that summer and spent the day doing demos (the 'July Sessions'). I drove a friend and two cousins on my birthday to a restaurant for lunch, and commuted between home and downtown early that fall with a new girl friend I met through returning to Prof. Writing. Those were very good days, driving with her and other friends; I saw my friend Brent way more often because I could pick him up and do stuff with him rather than having to meet somewhere via bus. The city was at my feet. In 2014, I drove it with my mother down to Sandbanks. There's quite a variety of places and memories and times, from being able to stay at Algonquin until 4am in the morning, editing images with Arthur (and then driving him home) to driving to the Rockcliffe Flying Club this summer and Fall to fly and take my ground school classes. There were on-location photoshoots, lunches, trips with the dog to the Manotick dog park, driving my paternal grandpa downtown to meet my father for lunch, driving to Hog's Back Falls with a spontaneous, mysterious Serbian girl, getting on top of the car to do a long exposure of a neighbourhood street, even showing up driving along a residential street in the Bing! Maps satellite imagery. Many time-lapse videos and point-of-view shots taken with my GoPro, and pleasant, soothing night drives past the bottom end of the airport. I discovered and re-discovered so many great songs on the radio in that car. They're virtually countless in number.

Moving on. We do have a new car. This past weekend, I test-drove three different Toyota cars - one Prius-C, a 2010 Matrix, and a 2014 Yaris - the exact same make I just had. I disliked the Prius, fared okay with the Matrix, and preferred the Yaris over the other two easily. I guess it's just a comfortable, familiar car to drive, despite being an updated model. The five-year difference means quite a change to the exterior design of the car from front to back, and the dashboard is quite different. We ended up choosing the Yaris; the Prius was too expensive, and I just found the Matrix nothing to be interested in or excited about. I much preferred the ride style of the Yaris - the seats pump up, so I'm sitting high and angled forward slightly. Plus, when you turn the key in the ignition, you know the car is actually on with the validation of a revving engine; you only get dashboard lights to tell you that the Prius is actually running. The saleswoman had to explain it to me after I turned the ignition twice in perplexity.

I'm sad to know that the car I drove for three years and had so many good times in will be taken apart and scrapped. It was a great car. On the other hand, it was a base model; there was no air conditioning, no power locks or windows, no current auxilery stuff except for a jack. The only power-assisted gadgets on the car were for steering, braking, and adjusting the door mirrors. It was black. In the summer, all the windows had to always be down, otherwise you'd melt. I recall driving with my friend Duncan from his place to mine to retrieve a couple of things for our demo session that I'd forgotten. It was rush hour, and it was early July. We sat in queue on roads and at lights, melting, for over forty-five minutes there and back. All the windows were down, but we weren't moving very often, and hot, humid air blowing in the car is hardly much of a coolant. Even parked in the shade, if the windows weren't mostly down, you'd be getting into an oven.

I'm looking forward to having a recent car with AC, power windows, power locks, new style, and even buttons on the steering wheel that include BlueTooth. It's unfortunate that what happened happened, but I'll still have the same radio and the same friends (most of them) and many more experiences and ground to have/cover. Plus, I have the experience and wisdom of how accidents happen (very, very quickly) so the next time I end up in a crash, I shouldn't be at fault. I'll be the one rear-ended or whatever it is. Hopefully that never happens.

Goodbye, Chipmunk.

Red Cloud

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Creativity Verses Self-Indulgence

I'm going to make this short and quick, as I due have time constraints and I want to avoid my usual wordiness.

There are some music videos out there that are really creative and interesting or inspiring, and then there are the ones that are pointless, self-conscious, silly, or, worst of all, hugely self-indulgent and showy. I don't mean showy as in bombastic and action-filled, with juggling chainsaws and fireworks, but showy as in "look at me! Look at how amazing I am!"

I'm writing this because I have two great examples in mind, and I wanted to critique them somewhat. I'll start with the creative end of the spectrum.

This isn't the most creative video in the world, and there are definitely others that are just as or more creative (see 'Let Forever Be' by the Chemical Brothers) but it's still a great example. The best creative videos are the simple ones (complex is neat as well, but it can be taking it to the implausible level). In this example, the lead singer wanders through a dark studio filled with artefacts, backgrounds, and scenery, seemingly walking something of a distance until he meets up with the rest of the band, and the camera pulls out to reveal the relatively short distance he walked - more like a semi-circle, with tricks like studio lighting and the way the camera kept his pace. The very atmosphere and setting of the video distills its creativity.

The self-indulgent side:

As I said above, this isn't the worst, and others are just like it, but it's the most severe example I can think of right now. I actually want to say it's the worst, except I've seen worse ones in the past. I believe.

I actually find it kind of funny that I once liked this. I would still like it if it were an instrumental, and even then, it would still feel like a bit of a guilty pleasure because it sounds so steeped in indie-alternative, and that's a genre I don't really relate to; I felt like I was having my 'first time' in liking it and talking about it to my peers, because I was excited about something they were already immersed in and seemed 'cool' about. It's mildly mortifying to think I once referred to it erroneously as "pumped up with kicks" - I guess I was happy that I liked something then-current that everyone around me listened to to the point of screwing up the title. Hence the "first time" metaphor. I personally dislike acting or trying to adapt a 'coolness' based on mass-interest in something; If I wanted to be 'cool,' I'd have an individual coolness based on character, not devotion to something that permits me under a label with others. The difference with that is you can choose to see individual 'coolness' or not, and no one would have to care; there's no false superiority or identity coming from the mass-interest type. I've gotten wordy...

I viewed this video a couple of times. As far as I've seen, it's merely a clip video of promotional material of their pressings mixed with home videos and footage that, with the influence of the promotional stuff and this song as the soundtrack, seem to impress upon the viewer how chill and amazing these young men are. It's permeated with that 'look at us' showiness as the band members sweet-talk girls at bars, drink, jump off low cliffs, travel, and come off with an overload of swagger. Finally, you add in ridiculous footage of the band playing so ridiculously hard, rocking their guitars and screaming into microphones that it makes no sense whatsoever. They're an indie band, not a hard metal rock band. They look like idiots.

The only similarity between the entire video and the entire song is the lead singer's use of a megaphone in a couple of shots. The use of which makes me dislike the vocals in the song altogether.

The lack of creativity goes further, even to the song itself. If you want a song about a high school shooting - with other children being murdered, or just the murderer him/herself - listen to 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam. The music video to that song won awards, and though it was a more complex video, it meshed with the song perfectly and poetically, when you consider the whole 'life goes on despite this' aspect of the opening shot. The lyrics of 'Pumped up Kicks' are also hardly written between the lines, preferring the more upfront obvious style - of which nothing is wrong with that, but it lacks poetry and comes off as kind of repetitive (other songs deal with the same kind of subject matter).

I could watch 'Message to my Girl' over and over and come back to it after awhile. I can't watch 'Pumped up Kicks' more than once or twice altogether. I don't need to admire those men for chilling out and simultaneously putting out an amazing record, look, there it is, zoom in on it, see the band's name? Oh look, they're standing in a parking lot, bleary, I wonder what they were up to?

One thing I can notice, before I have to go, is that today's music videos seem to be way less creative than their 80s and 90s counterparts, and way more self-indulgent. I wonder why. There's way more exhibitionism, sex, and self-admiration going around than either of those two decades. It's unfortunate. Not to mention that it's possible to be creative and self-indulgent at the same time, and back then - I think 'Take on Me' by Ah-Hah exhibits a bit of both. But either way.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Not to Kill Yourself Via Quebec

With that title, I'm not even remotely referring to issues, headaches, groans, or whatever negative effects Quebec Separatism causes. I'm talking about literally not killing yourself via impact into the physical ground of the province as a whole.

It sounds weird, but it's one of the ideas that pop into my head when I think about stalling an aircraft. I got a demonstration of it today, in my slow flight lesson. That in itself was nerve-wracking, because slow flight is the range of speed between endurance flight and stalling. You're flying the aircraft near the edge of a stall - i.e., as slow as you can go before your weight out-balances the lift of the wings. After that happens, you start falling. You're 'stalled.'

The word itself is interesting to me because traditionally it's always meant, to me, that you've stopped the engine of your car. In terms of flight and aviation, it has the same meaning - you've stopped flying - but the engine in the plane is still running. Divorcing those two is the only difference.

I've never been in a stall in the air before, excluding landing on the runway (it's the same thing, but you're inches off the ground in that case). Having never experienced it, I was anxious in holding the plane in the slow-flight attitude for fear of inducing a full stall. The stall-warning horn is sounding, the nose is pitched up, your speed is between forty and fifty knots. Just pull the throttle out to idle and pitch even higher, and you're falling. It's pretty easy to do so in that situation.

Of course, my instructor made sure to demonstrate a stall afterwards, so I still had to experience it.

This was after a couple of weeks of teasing and grinning. Once I'd become aware that stalls, spins, and spirals were all part of the training, I became apprehensive and worried about them. I asked questions over and over, all of which were similar: How hard is the force? How fast? Interestingly, everyone from my instructor to the dispatcher (also a pilot) waved them off as 'fun' and 'easy.'

I didn't know that for sure. In the days when Ottawa had an exhibition at the end of the summer, I always avoided the scary rides - specifically, rides that induce a lot of sudden G-force and physical movement, like roller coasters or those spinning-rotating things. The ferris wheel, for obvious reasons, was my favourite. I just wasn't up, in any possible way, for being spun or flung about or pulled downward. The one time my father took me, it was even worse because he got annoyed and put-off at my limited choice in rides.

The real worry I had, really, wasn't of falling necessarily, but of being pulled down by the much bigger, heavier aircraft. It's going to start falling a lot faster than I am; my terminal velocity is probably tiny compared to it. So as the end of the lesson came and the instructor, as I worried, told me he was going to demonstrate a stall, I braced myself as he went into slow flight, the horn started buzzing...and then the nose tipped forward.

For a brief second, the horizon sprung up beyond the windshield, and the trees and land of Quebec came up straight ahead. Then my instructor pushed forward on the column, added power, and immediately recovered.

I briefly sounded like I was struggling on the toilet - but it was so fast there wasn't any pull. We might as well have just dipped forward. In my mind, I was thinking, "okay. So, if that's it...can we do it again? To make absolutely sure?" Of course I didn't say that out loud.

I spent the rest of the day feeling a false sense of self-appreciation, because I lived through a mere flightless dip at an altitude of 3,500 feet that was controlled and recovered by an experienced pilot. I fell out of the sky, briefly. More like fell through the sky. More so, it was cool. I was heading straight at the provence of Quebec for a second. The practice area is north of Gatineau, around Wakefield. It was decided at likely thanks to favourably un-busy, empty airspace and a low urban density on the ground below. I guess the provincial or municipal government has an agreement with the school for use of that airspace, or perhaps that sort of thing is laid back at the interprovincial level. I find it slightly funny that, at least for Rockcliffe, students learn to fly in the province next door. At least it isn't in French. Are residents aware that light aircraft often stall or do spins or spirals over their land? Maybe some have binoculars so they can watch the students avoid killing themselves via their trees or property. Another thing that amuses me is our often close proximity to land that is actually owned by my grandfather; imagine performing a spin over that?

Today was just a quick demonstration; my next lesson is literally just stalling, where I have to intentionally stall the plane - and then recover. No doubt the end of that lesson will also feature a spin demonstration - where the plane is stalled and spun around on all its axis. Pitching, yawing, and rolling all at once. That'll be something. They say it's fun. Perhaps it actually is; I worried so much about stalling only to find it's a simple dip forward (that kind of stall, anyway) that's as long as you let it last (so preferably as brief as possible) At least I'll learn how to avoid hitting Quebec - and, more importantly, Ontario, Canada, and anywhere else I fly when I'm not landing. For now, it starts with the province next door.

Red Cloud

Monday, September 14, 2015

Low Horns

I've been bouncing between a few different songs at the moment. I haven't reviewed them except for 'Santeria,' because I'm just not up to writing it down at the moment I guess. But this recent thing I've finally listened to is powerful enough to make me want to write about it, largely for its horn section.

It's another Wal-Mart thing. It's played in the store for a few years, and I've always found it potentially good-sounding, but not particularly amazing enough to want me to look it up right away. Just likable. Two days ago I decided to look it up either way, which wasn't too hard.

I'll do a quick critical review first: It's simplistic in its lyrics. "I'm having a great day, because I've got things put together and a girlfriend, and the weather is nice." The progression is simple, but that's okay as all of them, apart from most 70s alternative rock songs, jazz, and older stuff really are simplistic. It's easier for people to listen to simple basic things. On a brief background, the best I could get from Wikipedia is that Luce, the band, formed fifteen years ago in San Francisco and is named after the lead singer's surname. The song here was one of their first releases.

That over with, the reason I like the song is its mixture of acoustic guitar and horns. It has a kind of coffee house indie sound to it, but not too much and not obvious in the sense that it's coming off as 'cool.' I actually dislike songs in that genre as they sound too alternative for my taste and also somewhat superior. It may be an subconscious reason for why I've never taken an interest in any Michael Cera coming-of-age film (as far as I know the end result of every film is of his losing his virginity over and over again, whether at the start (Juno) or the end (every other one)). This song is a bit more subtle in its execution of horns, acoustics and lazy octave-bouncing electric guitar.

What really makes it kick in for me is the latter half of the first verse: A low-sounding horn, perhaps a trombone, provides brief accompaniment. It's quiet and just deep, subtle but still obvious. It raises the horn section from background accompaniment to a centre-stage part of the song. Too often in pop music, when there's a horn section, they merely perform a background riff to raise the presence of the music, or do little fills. 'One World' by The Police is a great example, because it has horns virtually looping over and over again throughout the entire song. I like them, but that's all it is. I find a lot of reggae and ska music uses a simple horn riff that plays intermittently or constantly throughout a song. On the other hand, there's 'No Reply At All' by Genesis, where the horns are virtually everywhere, performing both the bass melody and the vocal melody, as well as adding other parts. They even sound silly sometimes (listen to the very beginning).

'Good Day' uses them both for fills as well as substance. They sort of fall in the middle between prominent, constant use that makes them leaders of the music, and being a mere riff that plays along the same progression. I've quickly found that this song is in G minor. The progression is a I-V-VII-I - a G-D-F-G. On a piano, the equivalent notes to the horn section are GF-D...F-D, D-F-F#G. It essentially plays the same notes, adding an F sharp (the bass guitar does the same sort of thing: G-G...BCD-D...D-F-F...F-F#-G). What elevates the horn section to more than just a background accompaniment is the way the deeper horn sneaks into that first verse, the fills, and the F-E-F build-up to the chorus. There's also a brief solo before the start of the bridge, and in general they get more prominent towards the end of the song. You could say they start off with that low singular trombone in the first verse (which plays its progression only once, briefly) and end very obviously.

This middle-ground is exactly what I personally like, so the song sits nicely with me. Unlike another song I took an interest in that I heard at the store a month or so ago, this one will probably end up in my big list. The other one sounded understated yet too wilful at the same time to me (it was 'Unpredictable' by...well, they were French).

Music: B+
Lyrics: B-

Red Cloud

Monday, August 31, 2015

Finger Stimulation

A very common trait of Autistic children is their use of physical stimuli to enrich their inner worlds. Usually it's a repetitive movement, and I was no exception. I don't need to go into detail about that, because anyone from my high school years no doubt pondered and reached their own conclusions as to why I was the youngest person around to have a bald spot on my head. I'm glad I haven't returned to that at such a hair-tearing level.

When I listen to music, I almost always, no matter what, drum my fingers to it. It was never something I thought much about when doing it other than that I knew I did it to a deeper level than others, and all the time. Until the moment I had close to an epiphany of what it actually entails.

What I always knew likely separated me from other habitual finger-drummers with their music is that I didn't merely drum to the beat and rhythm of the song. When my fingers hit a surface, they were very literally hitting each musical note, instrument, and sound heard in the song. If a song has drums, bass, piano, guitar, and sax, I will have a finger response to every single one of them, including each drum and often the hi-hat (if it isn't too overbearing). I don't really drum out vocals, but when I do, I hit based on pitch, syllable, and inflection.

Instrument slides - like a guitarist sliding his fingers up the fret board - would mean my fingers come down one after the other in time from the beginning to the end of the slide. Pull-ons and offs with guitar instruments that add emphasis would get an extra finger tap the same way you'd hit a snare drum with two sticks nearly at the same time. Essentially, I have an entire rhythm system that works for any sound. The word 'control' would get one tap for the 'con' part and a pull-on tap for the 'trol' syllable due to 'r's emphasis. I've had this inclination to tap my fingers to every sound in a song ever since I started enjoying music at a young age, though back then it began with my teeth. That was an entirely separate system of jaw movement. The left side would handle the bass drum rhythm and the right the snare beat, with the front doing all the in-betweens. Grinding would sound out any emphasis, which I could do from side to side or back and forth.

This may come off as pointless and something mundane everyone does, but I now realize it actually contributed a difference to my ears and interests and timing such that I can't really fathom it. If I don't tap my fingers at all, the music doesn't sound nearly as engaging or satisfying.

It's not just an accompaniment. It's me attempting to become one with the music I'm listening to, to literally lose myself deep within it and live out each note and beat. I feel like the music, activated. It delivers me to a strong synesthetic landscape of shapes and forms that I transmit through my tendons and finger muscles. It's like a direct, intimate interaction. Like I'm meeting each note and touching it, making sure it's accounted for.

As a result of doing this my whole life, I'm extremely, highly accurate. Picking up a rhythm is almost instantaneous to me, and learning a song only takes me a day or two of a couple of listens. By then I'm nearly proficient at handling each drum fill, each guitar part, and everything else. I can anticipate notes and changes in beat immediately and get them right almost 100% of the time (I approach that a few listens in, and keep that onwards).

To make it even more complicated and physically, visually in order to me, I correspond my choice of which finger to tap in relation to the previous one with my mental landscape, in which I've always used a visual high & low relationship with notes. A low E note compared to an A note will be much lower than the A. Visually lower - on a keyboard, A is to E's right if it's higher. In my mind, it's literally higher in space. Depending on how far away the notes are (after all this time I've got a refined sense of space between what my ears can determine are the right, or close-to-right, notes) I will use a finger further on the other side of my hand to 'interact' with that corresponding higher note. Because so many sounds are present at one time, coming in a constant flow, this juggling act of interaction and arrangement of which finger acts on the interaction due to the musical relationships only works in a small sense of what I'm intending to do (I've only got five fingers). Often I get it wrong - I have to respond too quickly to correspond the relationships with what I can work with, so eventually I get more accurate thanks to my anticipation as I listen to a song more and more.

This visual high-and-low space for synesthetic imagery is very much how I figure out a song by ear. I'm pretty good by now at recognizing notes themselves, so I can anticipate what that note will be and confirm it on my bass guitar, then use the space in elevation between the first note and the next to anticipate what that note may be. It's quick and easy for me to figure out. This is also assisted with the note's colour and disposition as well. Certain threesomes of notes played one after the other also give me the thought that it may be a triad based on a major or minor chord, and the pattern on the fretboard of the bass will visually show up, moving, in my mental imagery. There are movements on a bass, like triads, where I have the fretboard in my mind, each applicable fret connected like you would with dots, creating a line graph that you start and end in. These graphs are further manipulated by the synesthesia so that they're matched with the actual synesthetic sound response. Not to forget that there's more than one string and therefore position on a bass (and a guitar) to play something, so there are separate graphs for those as well.

The funny thing about all this complicated explanation is that this is just music. Day-to-day mental comprehension, the understanding of language and logic, is all synesthesia-based for me, and I can barely figure out how it works and comprehends things for me. It's similar, I find, to trying to understand how tapping a multitude of buttons on a keyboard causes letters to show up on this screen, formatted on this webpage in real-time, on this section of screen, with the pixels lighting up the characters on a page brought to this screen from a server system somewhere far away from here. And the keyboard I'm using is a wireless addition to the Mac I'm on. Tapping my fingers actually brings me in intimately with the music, expressing its personality and intentions and thoughts and emotions as an interaction through me and out between my fingertips and the surface they're hitting. I'm living it as it plays, getting close with and interacting with the personalities I see, not leaving anyone out, creating a harmony.

Music is a much more intimate, emotionally thrilling, close thing to me than I ever realized. I knew it was emotionally thrilling and close to me before - but I didn't realize I was actually acting upon this closeness and creating a real-time interaction via my fingers. It creates, in turn, an inner passion. One in which I'm creating human emotions from the sounds and projecting what I find attractive onto the them, and with my fingers, interacting with, including, and sharing that concocted passion.

Red Cloud

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Found Lost

Five years ago, I decided during May to watch Lost from beginning to end. I was bored, a bit stressed, and mildly depressed for a couple of reasons. I found an online streaming site and went through the entire first three seasons.

It was a crappy, free streaming site that used videos from multiple links. I didn't use Netflix at the time. I had no job to pay for it. So I went along with that until I got to season 4, which merely played the first episode of season 3 all over again. The second episode was correct, but I wasn't watching that without watching Episode 1 of the fourth season. So I stopped.

Three weeks ago, it occurred to me that Lost might be available on Netflix, which I now have and pay for, so I searched and immediately found it. From there, I picked up from where I left in late May of 2010.

It wasn't difficult to get into the series again, and it started a marathon binge-watch that helped me get through my first six-day workweek at Wal-Mart to offset the flying lesson costs. That was roughly how long it took me to watch seasons 4 to 6 entirely, staying up until almost 3am in the morning to get through several episodes after work.

Having watched it all in its entirety, it no longer seems complicated for me in any way at all. Seasons 1 to 3 all feature character backgrounds and presents mysterious science-fiction, sometimes supernatural mysteries of the island. This includes the convergence of the main and tail section survivors and the introduction of The Others, native inhabitants of the island that have their own mysterious, suspicious intentions.

Season 4 is all about the survivors' contact and dealings with a freight ship that has apparently been sent to rescue everyone (though it turns out its only real purpose was to remove The Others' leader Ben Linus). New characters are introduced. It also features "flash-forwards" of select characters after they've been rescued from the island, (with the character of Jack desperately wanting to return) and eventually how they were rescued. The character of Ben Linus manages to 'move' the island by turning a wheel, causing himself to be teleported to Tunisia.

Season 5 has everyone split up between those who stayed on the island and those who were rescued; on the island, Ben's action has caused the leftover survivors to time-jump back and forth to different time periods. Mid-way through, John Locke manages to turn the wheel himself, stopping the island from time-jumping, but stranding everyone in 1974 while he ends up in Tunisia in the present day. From there he is helped by Charles Widmore to persuade those that left to return, an intention of John's from the 4th season. When he largely fails, Ben Linus murders him and manages to round most of the six up (including John Locke's body) to take a flight certain to pass within the island's mysterious reach. Ultimately all six rescued end up on the flight and back on the island, but they're split up; some end up in 1977 where those that never left are living with the Dharma Initiative, and others end up crash-landing in the present day. The 1977 group are absorbed into the Initiative while the present-day group marvel at John Locke's sudden return to life. Jack ends up trying to detonate a hydrogen bomb in 1977 to prevent a certain plot element in time from happening, therefore eventually preventing the original plane crash, which he does.

Season 6 is simply an alternate look at all the survivors' lives had the plane not crashed on the island (now underwater due to the bomb). It also has an alternate storyline where instead of working, the bomb's detonation merely transported everyone to the present day. It turns out John Locke is a human form of one of the mysterious entities on the island known as the 'smoke monster' (which had taken previous dead human forms known to the survivors throughout the series) and has an agenda. Essentially, most of the island's mysteries are solved and certain character backgrounds are finally told, and in the end Jack prevents this entity from leaving the island (its intention the entire time). In the alternate storyline, everyone's story is revealed to be part of a means to bring them together to 'move on,' everyone having died individually already.

To put it as simple as possible, it's about people crashing on an island that's mysterious and haunting, etc., their dealings with the natives, their attempts to leave, their attempts to return, and their ultimate showdown with an evil entity in the end in an attempt to protect the island. With unusual elements, time-travel, and science-fiction thrown in.

I liked it right up to season six. Up to then, it mostly made sense to me. But at the same time, even halfway through season five, some things didn't add up. A big example of this is Jack's conflicting desperations. At first he's dedicated to leaving the island. Then he's dedicated to returning. Then, almost right after he's returned, he's dedicated to preventing himself and everyone else from ever coming in the first place. Then he's once again dedicated to staying on the island. He becomes Jacob's replacement, defeats the 'man in black,' and then dies peacefully where he wants to die.

I think the writers had good fun with the constant time-travelling in the fifth season. I certainly enjoyed Sawyer's reactions to the very random jumps. The character backstories were also pretty interesting. The first four and a half seasons were pretty cohesive, but after that point it just got kind of random and sudden, which threw it off a little for me. I wonder if the writers weren't quite sure what to do once they got everyone returned to the island successfully. It seemed like there was a great expectation of some sort of war or adventure or something great once everyone was back, considering it was constantly suggested that nothing could come together or work properly for the island's sake (or everyone on it) if the six that left hadn't promptly returned.

I'm pleased with the ending in terms of the select few (including Claire) that managed to fly off the island on the plane, but I'm puzzled at the seemingly random choices of characters and the unusual, overly sentimental meaning of the "flash-sideways" time-line as they call it. Some things are never explained and seem kind of hard to believe - that there's a woman on the island sometime during the middle ages that 'protects' it and raises two children to do the same, that the island has this seemingly magical light at its core, and has all this significance. It's almost treated like a character on its own.

There definitely are a lot of great positives. The storytelling in general, disregarding the randomness of the latter episodes, never really faltered within the episodes themselves. The writers manage to intertwine a lot of things at once. I highly enjoyed Richard Alpert's story, and how Jacob fits himself seemingly randomly into everyone's life. If this series was novelized into a series of books, it would make a great adventure story in terms of the characters and some of the plots - like Sayid working as a secret assassin for Ben, or Desmond's backstory.

There's a lot of great acting too. The best moments of the sixth season were Jacob's interactions with Titus Welliver's original version of the 'man in black' (it would have been so much easier if he had a name). Jacob is constantly quiet and serene and laid-back yet in charge, and the M-I-B is similarly quiet, yet insanely desperate, which shows, and almost hilariously. "All I want to do is leave, Jacob, why can't you let me leave?" "As long as I'm around you're not going anywhere." "Yeah, well, see, that's why I want to kill you, Jacob." "Even if you do, someone else will just take my place." "Yes, well, then I'll kill them too." Then he smashes a wine bottle on a log in slow-motion. Very dramatic. In a humorous, petty way. I also highly liked how, in some way, virtually every minor character save for a few were re-written into other parts just as minor but obvious and important. Like the radio person on the freight ship later turning up as Desmond's driver in the sideways time-line in the sixth season.

I congratulate the writers for handling a lot of backstory, intention, intertwining plot elements and time-travel specifics, and how they slowly reveal more and more of certain realities as the show advances. I also congratulate the actors on a very pleasing, highly plausible performance. But I will say I'm just a little put-off at how the last season was put together. It seems like a silly, slapped-together kind of ending that revealed some interesting things but largely didn't make much sense to me. The biggest issue that created this, while it provided a huge dramatic ending, was Jack's immediate eagerness to detonate a bomb.

One thing I should finally note is where everyone's been since. I can't think of anything I've seen any of the ensemble cast in since Lost finished, with an exception for Michael Emerson, who played Ben Linus; I've noticed him in Person of Interest, and I've seen Evangaline Lily in a shampoo commercial - but I can't think of anything since that I've seen Mathew Fox in, or Terry O'Quinn, or Jorge Garcia, etc. It's like the show brought together all these great actors for one performance, and then they all went their separate ways, just as minor or unknown as they were before. I have seen a few of them in films and TV before they showed up on Lost - I caught Nestor Carbonnell in The Laramie Project (2002) and Titus Welliver in Born to be Wild (1994) but otherwise that's about it.

Maybe I'm just not prone to enough pop culture to have noticed.

After five years, I've finally finished, and I can give a proper grade.

Overall: B+

It would have a higher mark if the last season and a half weren't kind of screwed up. Despite that, the writing was pretty high-end.

Red Cloud

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


Once again, Boom 99.7 has come forth with something great.

I've never heard of Sublime before, not really. Wikipedia told me they were a 90s outfit, and, completely characteristic of my tastes, their genre was Ska. With some punk.

This song makes me realize why I love Ska. The Police's 'One World' made me realize I will always love it and it will define my overall taste in music to no end, and this song makes me see exactly why I love it.

It's the bass.

In Ska the bass guitar is the instrument you hear the most in terms of constancy and melody. The guitar usually plays staccato chords and now and then full melodies via string plucking, but its sound is mostly as accompaniment, or at least it sounds that way to me. Everything plays around the bass line. Also, it's often played quickly at times, sounding fretful, which I find attractive.

Since I was very young I always tended to get the majority of my emotional response and synesthetic backdrop from the bass in music. I relate to that instrument the most and find it the main reason I like the majority of the songs I like. There are some in other genres where it's almost entirely the piano providing the reason I love the music, but 90% of the time it's the bass. Its notes are deep and rooted, which I feel aligned with in terms of my own personality, or how I see myself. I guess my ears are more tuned to the lower notes of a song, because I've always enjoyed and listened to and picked those up first and focused on them. My method for learning a song by ear is always to learn the bass line first, because it almost always uses root notes of the chords other instruments use in its progression. Bass plays a C, the guitar plays a C...major, or minor, or seventh, whatever.

It's the bass and, to a slightly lesser extent, the rhythm. The drums always keep a nice steady beat and rhythm in Ska songs, and this one is perfect in terms of the speed and rhythm of the hi-hat. Perhaps it's partly why I took up the drums eight years ago...I always drum my fingers to the beat of every instrument in a song almost every time, and I have a sense of time and beat. One thing I realized when I tried to play 'One World' on the drums for the first time, a song that's full of almost random flourishes and constant changes in beat (a Stewart Copeland masterclass type of thing) I surprised myself by very quickly adjusting to and keeping the rhythm and beat mostly correct while predictably screwing up every flourish, on hi-hat and toms. It comes naturally to me.

Focusing on this song, I heard it on the radio once and found the bass attractive due to its melody. Of course, I forgot to look it up, so I didn't hear it again until yesterday, when I remembered and located the song and listened to it completely for the first time.

As I wrote above, its low-end melody made me realize what I love about Ska, and I liked the hi-hat rhythm. Deeper down, though, the bass painted a personality that seemed kind of high and low, full of very human worries and faults, and for the first time, it came off as feminine to me. My natural response was to paint a picture of my type based on the bass melody: A dark-haired, mostly round-faced girl with those Sherry Kean eyes (green) feeling and coming off exactly as this bass does. The A flat the bass plays during the chorus sounds especially fretful and highly attractive to me, and later it plays that note an octave lower - or deeper.

Despite the melody sounding kind of complicated and as a result multi-faceted and deep, it's actually quite simple. In general the bassist follows a progression (during the verses) of E, A flat/G sharp, C sharp/D flat, and B. The choruses go A, B, E, and A flat with extra notes between E and A flat that bring it down (D sharp and C sharp). Four main notes per progression, like most (if not all) commercial pop music songs. The trick to its greatness and dynamic is the bassist's adding of secondary, extra notes during and between notes of each progression. The changing of the note's depth - up or down an octave - also contributes. Because you're already going at a quick, steady tempo, adding these extra notes requires you to be quick in fretting them, so they come off as sixteenth notes added in almost at the last second, giving that 'fretful' yet dynamic, melody. All the sharps involved around E makes me suspicious that it's in E major.

In sharp contrast with the music, the lyrics are quite dark and threatening. When I first heard it I didn't pay too much attention to them though the vocalist sounded wistful. Looking them up, and reading about the suggested meaning on Wikipedia to be sure, it's actually about someone's jealous anger over his loss of a girl to someone else, using Mexican words to describe the guilty parties. "Sancho" took his "Heina" from him. This anger develops into a threatening yet pathetic-sounding, wistful rage as the vocalist talks about shooting the other guy with his 'new forty-five.' All this is set to mostly happy, easy-going, reconciliatory-sounding music. The progression during the chorus literally sounds like it's saying "Hey now, we're all happy here, let's set this all aside and forget our negative feelings." Meanwhile the singer is sadly venting his anger against this.

Some notable details: The band came from Long Beach, California, and started going in 1988. They were modestly popular and had a few minor hits in the 90s, but immediately after recording their third album (which was their first on a mainstream label) lead singer and guitarist Bradley Nowell died of a heroine overdose (on May 25, 1996 - for me, one day after my 1996 aerial photo was taken). The band's mascot, Nowell's dog, took his place in the music video. The song was released on January 7th, 1997. It became a hit - though a posthumous one. The band broke up immediately after Nowell's death. I find it kind of unfortunate and sad that the voice I'm listening to doesn't exist anymore, that the singer died a long time ago. Also of note is that the bass line of this song, the reason I like it altogether, apparently comes from an earlier song of theirs called 'Lincoln Highway Dub' from their 1994 album Robbin' the Hood. I may go listen to that.

Song: A
Lyrics: B+

Sooner or later I'll be writing a review (a proper review, not a huge look at why I like a music genre -and then the review) on a Billy Joel song.

Red Cloud